Friday, February 24, 2012

The End Of Hal Jordan, The Rise Of Kyle Rayner: Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn

The Good: Interesting story, Moments of character, Generally decent artwork
The Bad: Annoyingly incomplete story – missing chapters leave big gaps
The Basics: A changing of the guard story, Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn does not quite finish off Hal Jordan’s saga as the Green Lantern, though it is a concrete beginning for Kyle Rayner.

Even as my Flash Year has begun, I am finishing off a small pile of graphic novels that my local library has been kind enough to get in for me. In addition to some completely different graphic novels that are detached from anything else I have read before, the library has gotten me in some pretty classic Green Lantern books. As a result, I have been quite happy to fill in some of the gaps in my Green Lantern history and stories that have been alluded to are now being played out for me in the pages of the books. One of those books is Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn and I was pretty excited about it when it came in for me. Unfortunately, my excitement has waned quite a bit since reading the book.

Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is the story that explores the demise of Hal Jordan. Or rather, it explores part of the fall of Hal Jordan. The frustrating aspect of Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is that the book begins to tell the story of Hal Jordan getting twisted to evil and then it diverges into the story of Kyle Rayner getting the call to be the new Green Lantern. While I have little problem with blending the two stories, the functional problem with Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is that the book is by no means complete and the missing chapters are noticeably missing. As a result, there are storytelling leaps that make the important character journey of Hal Jordan quite a bit less than it ought to be in this book.

Following the destruction of Coast City at the hands of Mongul, Hal Jordan is essentially lost. Emotionally adrift, he returns to the crater where Coast City had been and he uses his ring to create a construct of both the city and the people he knew there. The Guardians of the Universe see this from Oa and decide that Hal Jordan is using his ring for personal gain and they cut his power off and demand he return to Oa. But Hal Jordan is not ready to go. Tormented by visions of his father and irritated by how the Guardians use the Corps as disposable soldiers, Hal Jordan rebels. Reasoning that on Oa, he could take the Central Power Battery as his own and restore Coast City permanently, Jordan begins a dangerous trip to Oa. Cutting his way through the members of the Green Lantern Corps thrown in his path, Jordan fights his way to Oa, faces Sinestro one final time and then appears to destroy the last vestiges of the Green Lantern Corps!

Ganthet, the Guardian, had a failsafe and following Hal Jordan walking out of frame into the Central Power Battery, he executes it. Ganthen creates one final Green Lantern ring and he returns to Earth with it. There, he presents a young artist, Kyle Rayner, with the ring. Rayner is a quick study and he takes down a robotic construct from S.T.A.R. Labs before he is beset by Mongul, who is looking for the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, but is content to pound Kyle. In fighting Mongul, Rayner is tutored by none other than Superman on the Corps, the supposed limitations of the ring and the role of the Green Lantern. But when the U.S. Government employs Major Force to find out what is going on with the Green Lantern, Kyle’s relationship with his girlfriend, Alex, takes a disastrous turn.

The story is an overlapping one and the final wrap-up in which Alan Scott appears to brief Kyle Rayner is both gratifying and deeply irritating. On the gratifying front, readers learn that Hal Jordan has not been stopped; his saga is not yet complete. This, at least, lets us readers know we were not sloppy or stupid, the story just trailed off and changed focus. What is deeply irritating about this is that Scott alludes to battles others have fought against Hal Jordan since Rayner’s story began. The attempts by the Justice League to stop Hal Jordan are not detailed in this book, so there is something of an anti-climax to Hal Jordan’s story.

The storytelling gaps are evident in more than just the latter half of the book, though. Hal Jordan’s story rather abruptly transforms from a man in mourning to a killfest wherein Hal Jordan is cutting through his peers in space. There is an odd storytelling leap from Jordan leaving Earth to suddenly being in the middle of a fight with other Green Lantern Corps members. As well, given that the Corps is 3600 members strong, the book seems somewhat diminished in that less than a dozen members of the Corps are seen trying to stop Jordan. Even after he appears to destroy the Central Power Battery, it seems like there would be many Lanterns left to stop him.

But the book is not all plot gaps and what story there is is very engaging. The idea that Hal Jordan is spiraling down into something terrible is interesting and it left me wanting to read both the missing chapters and the conclusion to his tale. Kyle Rayner is also given a pretty cool start. Jordan’s end is weaved in an interesting way with Rayner’s beginning and what is most interesting about Rayner’s start is how it was clear the entire Green Lantern franchise was being rebooted. Rayner is given the ring and has no resources to help him learn, so he is essentially a Corps of one. In meeting with Superman (fresh from his own resurrection), Rayner is given a chance to shine and the reader is given some idea of the retooling of the mythos. Superman, for example, informs Rayner that his powers shouldn’t be working on Mongul because of the yellow spectrum weakness. That weakness is later explained (though not in this book), as is its absence in Rayner’s power base. Rayner is an interesting character and given that the reader sees his flirtatious relationship with Alex from the outset, we are lulled into the story of Rayner’s first tragedy. He is an engaging enough protagonist.

For his part in Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn, Hal Jordan starts off as an empathetic enough protagonist. He is clearly in pain, but the leap between his pain and his vengeance is not made clear in this book, so it appears as if he has simply snapped mentally. While having Hal Jordan turn into a somewhat monolithic villain – though the fight with Sinestro is pretty cool – it actually works well in the large context of Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn. Hal Jordan snaps when all he loves is lost, Kyle Rayner has love in his life, menaced by a supervillain. Kyle Rayner is instantly established as a man who is much cooler under pressure than Jordan appears to be!

The artwork in Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is pretty decent. While the colors are a little more . . . solid (?, lacking subtlety and shading), than comic books now, Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn features nicely vibrant colors that make reading the book visually fun. There are clear points where the artwork was scaled back to keep the book more teen-appropriate than I would have liked – Alex’s seduction scene is a lot of talk, very little skin and Hal Jordan’s legendary battle with Boodika that results in her hand being amputated is robbed of much of its gore and shock value by panels that are framed to exclude the “worst” of it. The sense of movement in and between the panels in Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is highly variable, but for the most part, the artwork is decent.

Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight – New Dawn is, ultimately, a very necessary chapter in the Green Lantern Saga that is presented in a remarkably unsatisfying way. Even so, it is just engaging enough to recommend, if not laud.

For other Green Lantern-related books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Green Lantern/Green Arrow – Volume 1
Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Blackest Night
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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